Among the many cancellations and postponements in Bellevue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, what may be the first meeting to be rescheduled will soon occur.
The Iowa Utilities Board will conduct a public informational meeting on May 5 at noon about the proposed underground transmission line for renewable wind and solar power that would run about 350 miles from Mason City, Iowa to the Chicago area.
And, according to officials who are planning the transmission line, it would run right through the middle of Bellevue, buried right next to the current Canadian Pacific rail line.
The public meeting was originally supposed to take place Monday, March 16 at the Shore Events Center north of town.
The rescheduled public informational meeting on May 5 will take place via an online ‘webinar,’ according to officials and will begin at noon. The information and link on how to log into the session is listed in the legal notification published on page 16 of today’s Herald-Leader.
“While normally an in-person meeting would be held, in light of the ongoing health crisis and executive orders and guidance regarding avoiding public meetings, this meeting is being held remotely pursuant to Section 9 of Governor Kim Reynolds March 19, 2020 Proclamation of Disaster Emergency,” said Neil W. Jones, vice president of SOO Green Renewable Energy, the company proposing the new transmission line. “As a landowner or a party in possession of property that may be affected by the location and construction of the described underground electric transmission line, you have the right to participate in the Public Informational Meeting. You also have the right to file with the Iowa Utilities Board objections to the location and construction of the proposed line as described.”
Representatives of the Utilities Board will preside at the Public Informational Meeting webinar and present a summary of the legal rights of affected landowners. Qualified representatives of the Petitioner will be present to discuss the project and to answer questions. Persons with disabilities requiring assistive services or devices to observe or participate in the webinar should contact the Utilities Board at (515) 725-7300 in advance of the scheduled date to request that appropriate arrangements be made. Anyone with questions or concerns about the project may contact the Utilities Board at the same number listed above.
Sarah Lukan, a spokeswoman for the SOO Green Renewable Rail project, said that the $2.5 billion plan is only in the proposal and development phase, but SOO Green officials are hopeful about having the development, government regulations, construction and operation sewn up within the next few years.
Officials from the Direct Connect Development Company (DC DevCo), which is acting as the developer on the project, bill the SOO Green Renewable Rail as a connection between "two of the largest electric power markets" in the United States.
The green energy transmission line route largely would fall in the right of way for the Canadian Pacific line, which locally would take it through Dubuque, Bellevue, Sabula and Savanna.
As far as Bellevue’s role, the situation is a bit different from other communities and rural areas, because the section of railroad that runs through town down Second Street does not have right of way on either side of the tracks.
City and project officials would have to work out an agreement for an easement, according to Bellevue City Administrator and Clerk Abbey Skrivseth, who noted that the City may be able to garner some additional revenue in an agreement for the right of way access.
SOO Green is a proposed 349-mile, 2,100 MW, 525 KV high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will run underground along the existing railroad line. The majority of the project’s route will be located along rail owned by Canadian Pacific.
If successful, SOO Green will be the first to take construction underground and to adopt the rail co-location model used in building America’s fiber optic system. The project’s construction methods will limit impacts to the environment by boring under sensitive habitat, limiting the impact on birds and other endangered species. Building SOO Green underground and utilizing an existing railroad right of way will also limit impacts to neighboring landowners, say company officials.
According to the American Wind Energy Association: 36 percent of Iowa's electrical production in 2016 was powered by wind and that number is expected to hit 40 percent by 2020.
DC DevCo argues that the project would bring "clean energy from the resource rich Midwest to satisfy the growing demand in Illinois and other eastern markets."
In terms of more material benefits, DC DevCo estimates that "construction of the project will directly create more than 600 temporary jobs in Iowa and Illinois" as well as "indirectly creating more than 200 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the wind farms and the transmission line post-construction."
Spokespeople from the project added that counties that the line goes through (including Jackson County) will receive a payment "for each mile of line."
The DC DevCo is working on the project with investors from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Jingoli Power and Siemens Financial Services.
Siemens will also be responsible for "overall system design, engineering, manufacture, civil works, installation" and helping build converter stations to power the 2,100 megawatt transmission line.
SOO Green's website states that the high voltage direct current (HVDC) line would be superior to an alternating current (AC) line because it would have lower energy costs and a smaller environmental footprint.